Nobody asked the IDF
More than once in the past, the IDF has taken a restrained approach, as opposed to the proposals of the political echelon, and especially the prime minister. No longer. If the disengagement plan is carried out in spite of everything, the IDF is setting a high "price tag" for the Gaza Strip in case terrorism continues even after the withdrawal.
Due to the political nature of the disengagement issue, Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon didn't allow his officers to express themselves about it. He wants to leave security discussions related to the disengagement for closed forums. All this cannot hide the fact that the top echelons of the Israel Defense Forces were surprised - and later angry - about being kept out of the initial discussions on the plan, and during the first stage weren't familiar with the details.
The first outside the Prime Minister's Office to hear the details of the plan were the Americans, when bureau chief Dov Weisglass and National Security Adviser Giora Eiland arrived in Washington. The program was, in effect, formulated during their trips to Washington and back. There was no preliminary strategic discussion. Only after their return from the United States - and before they embarked on their second trip - did the first meeting take place between the heads of the IDF and the Shin Bet security services and the prime minister. That was the meeting where they discussed the future of the Philadelphi axis on the Egyptian border.
The Americans immediately asked Weisglass and Eiland what the security apparatus thought about the plan. They were told the security chiefs had approved the plan. The IDF claims the security apparatus couldn't have approved it at that stage because at the time it was unfamiliar with the details. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was probably asked his opinion, but the IDF claims the defense minister is a political figure, whereas the IDF viewpoint is represented by the chief of staff, his deputy, and the general staff.
Are there major differences between the approaches of the two sides? IDF leaders believe a bilateral arrangement and agreement are preferable to a unilateral move. Ya'alon said during internal discussions that he supports the idea of leaving the Gaza Strip, but in the context of an agreement. In other words, the idea is correct, but not the method and the plan. The claim that he is opposed to leaving Gaza is therefore incorrect. On the other hand, like Prime Minister Sharon, the chief of staff and others on the general staff say Israel has no partner today for negotiations. Their stance is contradictory: If there is no partner, how is it possible to achieve a bilateral agreement?
The more serious difference of opinion is reflected in the IDF statement that the present plan won't lead to a full and genuine disengagement. Since the Palestinians are determined to continue to smuggle weapons, there is no escaping the imposition of a siege on the Gaza Strip - not only will the Philadelphi axis be closed, but so will the sea and air crossings. Therefore, overall responsibility for what happens in the Gaza Strip will fall on the IDF. The result is that Israel will not succeed in ridding itself of the burden of ruling over the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The fear in the IDF is that the disengagement plan in its present form will turn into a trap for Israel.
The disengagement plan concept of "minimizing the damage" originated in the IDF in recent months. It has taken on various forms, and has become an operational plan of sorts. The military responses to the attacks on Israeli targets are becoming harsher. This can be measured in the number of Palestinians killed in each attack of the ground forces. They no longer try to spare Palestinian arms-bearers, whoever they may be. Not only is Hamas in their sights. It is also no coincidence that Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi were assassinated after the disengagement plan was born.
More than once in the past, the IDF has taken a restrained approach, as opposed to the proposals of the political echelon, and especially the prime minister. No longer. If the disengagement plan is carried out in spite of everything, the IDF is setting a high "price tag" for the Gaza Strip in case terrorism continues even after the withdrawal. The only thing that can change this trend is if the Palestinian leadership that gets responsibility for the Gaza Strip after the withdrawal surprises everyone and manages to prevent terrorist activities.